Recently I found a compilation of my students’ quoted memories and funny stories and other thoughts from our school camps as I went through papers from my teaching days. So I thought I’d split them into three posts, one for each camp.
I’ve not used names (to protect the innocent or not so innocent) and hope that you enjoy some of these memories as much as I do.
- For my first school camp, we went to Wombeyan Caves, not far from Taralga, NSW. We went for two nights/three days. It was very peaceful and beautiful. The kids enjoyed the freedom of wandering along the valley, climbing up unto banks and gathering firewood. The boys were thrilled to have some time to explore.
- I had the privilege/challenge to cook and organise meals. The kids had a few assigned tasks to help with washing up and prep since I needed help in the kitchen. Some students were better help than others. One of my oldest students taught me a lot that camp. He was behind a grade because of his family’s time in refugee camps when they fled from war torn East-Africa. I didn’t have the greatest relationship with him because frankly his size intimidated me. The most striking thing about this young man was his willingness to help, and his quiet dignity in the simple gesture of setting the table for the rest of the group. Whenever it was near mealtime, he was there setting the table and carrying food for me. That act showed a servant’s heart. It was a challenge to me to be a better example to him. Sadly, I don’t feel that I was able to teach him much from our time together in the classroom. It was many months later when he was no longer in my classroom that I was able to realize I hadn’t really treated him as a young man should be treated. No he wasn’t a hard worker, so I had been hard on him because of that. But I don’t think that should justify my actions. I approached him and was able to apologize and let him know I should have been kinder and more understanding. I also told him that I was proud of him. Ever since my apology, I’ve gotten a huge grin from him every time I see him. He is a strong and handsome young man and I hope he turns to the Lord to guide his life.
- Another adventure in the kitchen was in regards to a toaster. I had been told the camp had one. I couldn’t find it, so I assumed they didn’t have one. I never thought to ask at the welcome centre. When we were packing up, I found out a toaster was available upon request. Oh well, I had I cleaned the top of the stove each morning, set the burner on low and unconventionally toasted our bread that way. They tasted fine.
- We took a long bush walk through a few small caves, and down to a stream. It was too chilly to wade or swim, but the kids played around a bit. I think they did get their feet wet. We were a very tired bunch when we got back to the cabins.
- We enjoyed our guided tour of Wollondilly Caves. The kids were fascinated by the formations and it was quite an experience for all of us. Our guide started to give the millions of years claim, but our driver, a pastor at the school, explained that we don’t believe that and the guide was willing to ask a bit more about creation because of that conversation.
- We enjoyed visiting with the different rangers. They called each other Wombeyan 6 or 3 or 8 depending on their call signs for the radio. Once we returned to our school, our pastor started calling me Wombeyan 16 since 16 was my classroom extension number. It became our special memory/label from camp.
- At night there were kangaroos gathered around, as we walked back and forth from the shower house/bathrooms to kitchen or cabins. We could get so close we could almost touch them. We didn’t. Kangaroos can be dangerous if threatened. (They kick.)
- We were refreshed from our time in the quiet valley, thought I don’t think we were all that quiet.
- One evening, we played games, including charades. The other night we had a bonfire with marshmallows and “s’mores”. There was a sausage/bun eating contest between two girls. They pilled a strange combination of leftover foods from previous meals onto their sausage and raced to finish eating them. I was very surprised that these were two of my quietest girls.
- My students gave some bad points from the trip:
- Too many kangaroo droppings, we woke up too early, the showers and bathrooms were too far away and needed cleaning, our pastor’s snoring, flies, bad words on a bed frame…
- Our bus was filthy with dust from the dirt road. The road into that valley is a bit scary, but it’s not really as bad as some roads I’ve been on in the mountains of North Carolina or Tennessee. The day after we got back, we cleaned out the bus and had to sweep and brush out piles of dust and wash the bus from all the road grime.
- We were exhausted, but thankful for the time together and the experiences we brought back with us.
I was very thankful for safety and enjoyable time together. I believe it unified our class in many ways. I realize now how significant that trip was for me. That was my first “inland” trip to bush. Little did I know then that I would marry an Australian and now live and attend church not far from where we went for that camp.
About a month ago, my husband and I organised a youth group activity at the caves. It brought back memories from my trip there in 2011. You can read about our youth activity here.
Thanks for reading,